There are a range of career paths available to optometrists on qualification and it's worth considering all the options before deciding what's right for you. We've briefly summarised the different career paths below. You can also watch our series of short vlogs, Where can optometry take you?, with members sharing insights into their different career choices and day-to-day working lives.
A locum is a person who temporarily fulfils the duties of another permanent optometrist or provides extra staffing during busy periods. You can select the days, hours and location of work. You are self-employed and not tied to a practice.
A domiciliary optometrist carries out eye examinations in patients’ homes, correctional facilities, care homes and day centres. Your patients may be housebound and suffering from physical disabilities, learning difficulties or mental health issues. You will need to adapt your clinical approach and soft skills to deliver a thorough eye examination in a way that meets the patient’s individual needs.
Watch On the road - a day in the life of a domiciliary optometrist.
Hospital optometrists are based in hospitals and clinics. You will typically work alongside ophthalmologists, orthoptists, nurses, and healthcare assistants as part of a team of eye specialists. The role may allow you to specialise in a particular area of optometry, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration. If you are based in an A&E department, the pace will be much faster than an outpatient clinic, and you will be prioritising those in more urgent need of care.
Watch Hospital happiness - hospital vs community practice.
Multiple practices (chains/franchises)
You will deal with a variety of clinical cases that you see in practice on a day-to-day basis, from sight tests and contact lens fittings, to dry eye assessments and OCT imaging. The patients you see will present a variety of problems, all requiring different solutions.
Watch Multiple matters - what the multiple setting has to offer.
Working in an independent practice
As with a multiple practice you will encounter a variety of clinical cases on a day-to-day basis in a High Street setting. Working in the independent sector often allows more flexibility on product recommendations and input into how the practice is run.
Watch Being independent - what it's like being an independent optometrist.
Lecturers teach academic and vocational subjects to undergraduate and postgraduate students. They teach optometry techniques to students and prepare them for their pre-registration year after graduation. Alongside teaching responsibilities, lecturers will usually undertake research within an area of specialist interest. Working in academia is especially rewarding because the impact you have is not only on the patients in clinic, but also on your student optoms during lectures, and in expanding knowledge in the research field.
Watch Academia advantages - what the world of academia has to offer.
You can use your professional skills to make a difference to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK and around the world. Charity work also allows you to enhance your clinical skills and improve your communications skills.
Watch Charity challenges - the satisfaction of volunteering.
To add variety to their working week many optometrists choose to use their skills in a range of settings. For example, you could locum a few days per week in multiple and independent practices, and then work in hospital clinics, alongside part-time teaching or clinic supervision at a local university optometry school.
Browse all our Where can optometry take you? vlogs.